Thursday, December 27, 2007
Where Are We Now?
Good morning! Before we get started, I must wish my sister a very happy birthday!
With that, I wanted to post something new today, and with Major League Baseball offices closed through New Years, I thought it would be a good time to ask where the Twins are right now. Not only that, but what are the situations that they still need to figure out this offseason, preferably before the start of spring training in February.
So, as of today, Thursday, December 27th, this would be the composition of the 2008 Minnesota Twins, along with some of the positional depth:
Jose Morales †
Joe Mauer is obviously the starter. Mike Redmond has been as good as any backup catcher in baseball during his time with the Twins. The Twins have a 2009 option on him. Jose Morales takes over the Number 3 catcher role held by Chris Heintz the last two seasons. The difference is that if Joe Mauer were to miss time, I would not be surprised if Morales would get a lot more playing time than Heintz did, and he may even take over as starter with Redmond remaining the backup. Whiteside is a veteran backstop signed by the Twins to a minor league contract. Korey Feiner, Kyle Geiger, Jeff Christy and Drew Butera would be the next in line, each of them known much more for their defense than offense.
Morneau is the starter and one of the Twins best hitters. Hopefully he can find a way to hit more homers in the second half. Garrett Jones has to make the team out of spring training as he is out of options. If he does, he would be a pinch hitter and get minimal time at 1B, DH or in the OF. Brock Peterson should move up to Rochester to play 1B, and if so, he could be ready soon and provide some pop. David Winfree is likely to spend a little more time in New Britain, but if healthy, he could jump quickly.
As of today, I believe that Harris would be the starter at 2B. Last year, he was the starting SS for Tampa Bay and responded by hitting .286/.343/.434 with 35 doubles and 12 homers. He may not have a lot of range for a SS, but that may be ok at 2B. Nick Punto will make the team because of the ridiculous contract given to him last year. With Gardy at the helm, Punto will likely get plenty of time in the infield. Alexi Casilla advanced from A-Ball to the big leagues in 2006, so we should not consider his struggles in his first season at AAA too negatively. He can go back to Rochester and share time between 2B and SS with Matt Tolbert.
I had said that I would be fine if the Twins went into the season with a platoon of Brian Buscher and Matt Macri. The signing of Mike Lamb means that the platoon will likely be sharing time in Rochester. Lamb was really a nice signing, in my opinion. He gets on base and has plenty of pop in his bat. Howie Clark was the 3B last year for the Blue Jays that didnít catch the pop up when A-Rod yelled behind him. Then he was named in the Mitchell Report. He likely will be with the Red Wings in 2008.
Offensively Adam Everett is probably the equivalent of Nick Punto in a decent year. Defensively, he is light years better than Punto. I am intrigued by the on base percentage and fielding of Alejandro Machado who the Twins took in the Rule V draft in 2006 only to have him miss the entire 2007 season. Tommy Watkins was a great feel-good story in 2007 and he did well in his brief time with the Twins. Trevor Plouffe was pushed again, this time to AA New Britain, and he had a very nice season. Will they push him to AAA Rochester, and will he take that next step? Can he be the opening day guy in 2009?
The acquisition of Delmon Young is pretty exciting. His offensive potential is tremendous, but it would be really nice if he would take an occasional walk! I would guess that Jason Kubel will wind up in left or right from time to time. Craig Monroe will get time off the bench in any of the three outfield spots.
Clearly this is a position that will be upgraded in any potential Johan Santana trade, but again, we are looking at current state. My thought is that if the season were to start today, Craig Monroe (who isnít really a CF) would likely be the CF. If that were the case, I think that they would keep Jason Pridie as the 5th outfielder because he can play all three outfield positions. After spending spring training with the Twins in 2006, Pridie was sent back to Tampa, but in this scenario, I think he would make the team as Jason Tynerís replacement. Denard Span had a very good second half in Rochester, and another half-season there and he could be ready for the big leagues. If not, Brandon Roberts will likely only need another half-season with New Britain, where Dustin Martin will also be.
Micheal Cuddyer is a lock in the outfield and probably in right field (depending on how Young adapts to LF). If he makes the team, Garrett Jones could see some time here. If not, former prospect Jon Knott was signed to a minor league deal and will be waiting in Rochester. Maybe even Doug Deeds will get more of an opportunity with the Red Wings in 2008.
Jason Kubel now slots in as the primary DH for the Twins, at least against right-handers. He could handle lefties as well, but Monroe hits lefties well and will need to play sometimes. Brock Peterson is just about ready and Erik Lis should begin the season in New Britain. He is almost a natural DH and could move quickly.
Again, we are talking about as of today, and that means that Johan Santana is the teamís #1 pitcher (and yes, an Ace). Until anything becomes official, this is the makeup as we know it. And, when that Santana trade does happen, it is likely that the Twins will acquire a pitcher who will be in the rotation immediately, their starting CF and likely two or three more players that could be major contributors in the coming years. After Santana, there is a lot of talent, a lot of youth and more than enough upside. Scott Baker pitched well in the second half and appears safe for a starting role. There is talk that Liriano should be ready for the rotation in May, but I guess my thought is that if he is good to go in spring training, keep him starting! Boof Bonser had a rough second half, but it appears that he is putting his work in this offseason. He deserves another chance to be in the rotation. I think that there is just something about Kevin Slowey. He has done everything he can in the minor leagues and has something that I think will make him successful in the big leagues. The way he went back down to the minor leagues and came back really good was a positive. There are plenty of other guys with the chance of making the rotation at some point. Nick Blackburn had a second breakout season and reached the majors. Glen Perkins was needed in the bullpen last year and did well when he was healthy, but if heís able to start and provide innings, they need to look into that. There are a lot of comparisons between Perkins and another lefty, Brian Duensing who had a great year that ended with him being the starting pitcher when Team USA beat Cuba in the World Cup championship. Anthony Swarzak certainly experienced some lows, but after he came back from suspension, he regained his spot as a top prospect of the team. And, Brian Bass was added to the 40 man roster after a solid AAA season as a spot starter and a strong start in Venezuela. And I didnít even mention the likes of Jeff Manship, who could fly up the system, or Ryan Mullins, who was good at two levels before struggling at Rochester. Oswaldo Sosa, Yohan Pino, Kyle Waldrop and Jay Rainville should all be starting at New Britain. And Tyler Robertson and Alex Burnett have major upside as well.
And, as we keep hearing, if Johan Santana is traded, Joe Nathan might not be far behind. That would alter this spot a lot as well. Nathan is as good as any closer. Neshek is as good as any set up man in the game. Matt Guerrier had another great season with a more important role. Jesse Crain had shoulder surgery and hopefully can come back and be as good as he has in the past. Speaking ofÖ wouldnít it be nice if Juan Rincon came back. I think Glen Perkins should be in the bullpen, and although I wish the team could get rid of Dennys Reyes, but if they canít, he will have a roster spot. The Rochester bullpen should be quite solid as well, with plenty of depth.
As of today, the Twins have what amounts to a pretty solid team. They have a top starter and a top closer. Their bullpen should be very solid, and the rest of the rotation has high upside. There is a former MVP and a former batting champ. The team has a guy that Baseball America named its top prospect in all of baseball just one year ago and who finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. They vastly improved at 3B. They stayed about the same at SS, but they should be improved at 2B.
This is a good team and a team that could compete in the AL Central if all went perfectly. More likely, this is a team that is behind the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians in the division.
Well, there are a couple of obvious things that have to still resolve themselves:
1.) This Johan Santana situation needs to end and preferably soon. I think we all know that a deal with the Yankees involving Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera and more is probably what will happen. That is already a solid trade as it fills two holes, but hopefully the Twins can get another decent prospect or two from the pinstripes. I know it wonít be popular, but I do think that it is best for the organization.
2.) I guess the 1b. would be a potential Joe Nathan trade. It certainly makes sense that the Twins would deal Nathan for more future stars.
3.) Centerfield is still a need, but one Iím not at all worried about as it should be resolved through the Santana trade whether it be Jacoby Ellsbury, Melky Cabrera or Adam Jones.
4.) Replacement starter and potential future Ace Ė Well, although Jon Lester has the chance to be a very good starter, Clay Buchholz and Phil Hughes are the two guys that I would classify under future ďAceĒ. That said, the health of Francisco Liriano is important in this as well. With as good as he showed he could be in 2006, it would be hard to not hope that he could return to that form and, if he does, that is the definition of Ace. Think about it, he threw harder than Santana, he had a better slider than Santana, and his changeup was very good too.
Really, that is it. That arenít a lot of holes. Yes, the first two are huge things and will involve a lot of hype, criticism, opinion and talk, but they will likely fill #3 and #4 by those deals. This team is close (even after potentially dealing Santana and Nathan) and competing for a division title in 2009 or for sure by 2010 will be well within reach.
So, what do you think? Am I missing anything? Am I right? Am I wrong? Leave some Comments, or feel free to e-mail me.
Thanks again for stopping by this site. Have a great day!